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MIT 'seeing machine' offers hope to blind

eeling."

She went on to use the device for many other visual experiences. For example, she developed a "visual language" consisting of short words that incorporate graphics and symbols that convey the meaning of words and make them easier to see and read.

But although the SLO held promise as more than a diagnostic device, it had serious drawbacks. In addition to the prohibitive cost, the SLO is large and bulky. Goldring determined to develop a more practical machine for the broader blind public.

She did so by collaborating over the past several years with Rob Webb, the machine's inventor and a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute; Aiello; Dr. Jerry Cavallerano, an optometrist at Joslin; William Mitchell, former dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning and now a professor in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences; the late Steve Benton, an acclaimed optical physicist and MIT professor; and former MIT affiliate James Cain.

She has also worked with dozens of MIT graduate students and undergraduates, including Sylvia Gonzalez (S.B. 2003) and Shima Rayej (S.B. 2004), who helped design and construct the seeing machine.

"We essentially made the new machine from scratch," Goldring said. While still allowing the projection of images, video and more onto a person's retina, the new desktop device costs much less than its predecessor in part because it doesn't include the diagnostic feedback of the SLO. The new seeing machine also replaces the laser of the SLO with light-emitting diodes, another source of high-intensity light that is much cheaper. Like its inspiration, the seeing machine is designed to be used by one eye.

The pilot clinical trial of the seeing machine involved visually impaired people recruited from the Beetham Eye Institute. All participants had a visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better-seeing eye. A person with 20/70 vision can see nothing smaller than the third line from the
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Source:Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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